Thursday, 8 December 2011


It is true, as the Herald remarked the other day, that Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, “wore his priestly garments and bands when preaching indoors,” but it is also true that the grand army of preachers that followed him never took to the gown and bands. Wesley began his ministry in a church that believed in robing its ministers during service, and force of habit clung to him even after he became a great leader of Methodism. It is a long distance between Mr. Wesley and the gown-wearing preachers of St. James’ Methodist church in Montreal. Wesley counseled against extravagance in dress and the building of costly meeting-houses, while the St. James congregation went to the extreme of building an expensive temple and dedicating it to the Lord with over half a million dollars plastered on it. There be churches in Hamilton where the ministers have always worn gowns during the Sunday services, and it is not amiss because it is the rule of the church, and the congregations are accustomed to it; but to introduce a gowned minister to a Hamilton congregation of Methodists would be an innovation rather startling. Leave ritualism where it belongs and to those who conscientiously believe in it; but let Methodism stick to the simplicity of the early fathers of the church. There is a tendency nowadays to introduce too many new fads into religious worship, and more worldliness than is beneficial is creeping into the membership of the churches. This part of the subject is a proper them for discussion for religious journals, not for one that caters to the world.


        Down one of the avenues in this city, a home was bereft some years ago by the mysterious disappearance of a bright boy, the idol of his parents. The boy was somewhere between 12 and 15 years old, and had every comfort and pleasure that his parents could provide for him. He was of studious habits, and was remarkably free from the wildness of boys his age. One afternoon, after returning from school, he went out to play with some of his companions, and from that hour his parents never set eyes on him. Those he went out to play with were not able to account for his mysterious disappearance. The last they saw of him was when they broke up their game and went home. Search was made everywhere but to no avail. Days and weeks and months passed by and the heart of the bereaved mother was well-nigh broken for the beloved son who came not. For years, the door of the home was never locked, and a lamp was always kept burning during the night for the wanderer’s return should he still be in the land of the living. The parents could not believe their boy had deserted the home where his every wish was gratified, and the conclusion forced itself upon them that he had met death. Still the mother is always looking for the return of her boy, and many times during the day does she look up and down the street from the door of her home hoping that at last he may be restored to her arms. “Where is my boy tonight?” is the sad refrain that goes out from her heart as she retires to rest. The world has lost its charms for that dear mother. Will her boy ever return or was his young life ended in some mysterious manner?


        Away back early in the sixties, when the war drums were beating across the river in the United States, and the young men not only of the republic, but of Canada, were enlisting to fight the battles of the north against the south, a party went over from Belleville to Buffalo, and enlisted in the union army. One of the number was a bright, young fellow, a book-keeper, and the main dependence of his mother, who was a widow. He was of sober, industrious habits, and frugal in his expenditures, for he seemed to live only that his mother might be made comfortable and happy, for the latter years of her married life had been blighted by a drunken husband. After his enlistment, the boy kept up a correspondence with his mother for some months, until after one of the heavy battles, his letters ceased to come. From that time on, she never heard from him, and at last was forced to the conclusion that he had been slain in battle, and she mourned for her brave soldier boy. For some reason, the mother could not learn from those who were his comrades anything about her son. Years rolled on and the mother moved from her home down by the lake to Toronto, where she earned a living for herself and family; and long after her children were able to provide for themselves, she kept on working till the burden of years became too great, and she was finally compelled to accept a home in Hamilton with one of her children. The old lady had an independent spirit, and preferred to make her own way through life while her health and strength lasted. She has now passed the four-score milestone on life’s journey, yet looks as bright and active as many one-third years younger. Some friend suggested to her that the United States government made provision for the parents of those who died in the service, and she applied to the commissioner of pensions at Washington. Then for the first time did she learn that the son she mourned as dead for nearly forty years was supposed to be alive, and tha6t for many years he had been drawing a pension from the government, and that the last place he had reported from was the Soldiers’ home at Dayton, Ohio. She then corresponded with the governor of the Dayton home, and traced her son to the Soldiers’ home at Bath, New York, and from there learned that a comrade in Buffalo might be able to furnish the desired information. She wrote to Buffalo, and a few weeks ago received an answer that her son had but recently died, and that for years h had made his temporary home in Buffalo. Here he was living within sixty miles from the mother who mourned his death, and the probabilities are that more than once he visited Hamilton. So far as the mother and son were concerned, there was no reason why he should keep under cover during all the forty years since he left home to enlist in the union army. It was a sad blow to the aged mother, for now she mourned her boy as one having recently passed over the river of death. Strange things happen in this world.

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